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20 SEPTEMBER 2014

Horizon: The defenders of anonymity on the internet

"Yet while anonymity offers a potential bulwark against surveillance, for those who do not wish to be watched, it has also helped in the development of that part of the online world known as the dark web.

Sites on the dark web like Silk Road have used Tor technology to hide their location and yet still be available to users who wish to visit them.

The dark web has now become a focus for law enforcement officers who believe it is facilitating a variety of illegal activities including financial crime and child abuse."

(Mike Radford, 3 September 2014, BBC News)

Fig.1 "Inside the Dark Web" 2014, television programme, BBC Two – Horizon, Series 51, Episode 4, first broadcast: 3 September 2014.

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2014 • anonymising networks • anonymity • anonymous communication • anonymous protocol • anonymous system • anonymous web browsing • BBC Twobitcoin • black market • Chelsea Manning • child abusecommunications monitoring • controversial technology • crime evasion • criminal actscryptographycybercrime • dark internet • dark web • data securityDavid Chaum • deep web • deepnet • detection • digital realm • dissidents • distributed filesharing network • distributed network • Edward Snowden • encryption • file sharing • financial crime • free market economy • GCHQ • government agencies • hidden network • hidden web • Horizon (BBC TV series) • I2P • information flowsinformation retrieval • information use • Internet • Interpol • invisible web • Jacob Appelbaum • Joss Wright • Julian Assangelaw enforcement • Mix Network • monitoring • National Security Agency • NSAonline activities • online marketplace • online space • Oxford Internet Institute • privacy and security • search engines • Silk Road (marketplace) • surface web • surveillancetelecommunicationsTim Berners-LeeTortraffic analysis • Troels Oerting • US Naval Research Laboratory Tor • Wikileaksworld wide web

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
22 MARCH 2013

The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin

"In November 1, 2008, a man named Satoshi Nakamoto posted a research paper to an obscure cryptography listserv describing his design for a new digital currency that he called bitcoin. None of the list's veterans had heard of him, and what little information could be gleaned was murky and contradictory. In an online profile, he said he lived in Japan. His email address was from a free German service. Google searches for his name turned up no relevant information; it was clearly a pseudonym. But while Nakamoto himself may have been a puzzle, his creation cracked a problem that had stumped cryptographers for decades. The idea of digital money – convenient and untraceable, liberated from the oversight of governments and banks – had been a hot topic since the birth of the Internet. Cypherpunks, the 1990s movement of libertarian cryptographers, dedicated themselves to the project. Yet every effort to create virtual cash had foundered. Ecash, an anonymous system launched in the early 1990s by cryptographer David Chaum, failed in part because it depended on the existing infrastructures of government and credit card companies. Other proposals followed – bit gold, RPOW, b–money – but none got off the ground.

One of the core challenges of designing a digital currency involves something called the double–spending problem. If a digital dollar is just information, free from the corporeal strictures of paper and metal, what's to prevent people from copying and pasting it as easily as a chunk of text, 'spending' it as many times as they want? The conventional answer involved using a central clearinghouse to keep a real–time ledger of all transactions – ensuring that, if someone spends his last digital dollar, he can't then spend it again. The ledger prevents fraud, but it also requires a trusted third party to administer it.

Bitcoin did away with the third party by publicly distributing the ledger, what Nakamoto called the 'block chain.' Users willing to devote CPU power to running a special piece of software would be called miners and would form a network to maintain the block chain collectively. In the process, they would also generate new currency. Transactions would be broadcast to the network, and computers running the software would compete to solve irreversible cryptographic puzzles that contain data from several transactions. The first miner to solve each puzzle would be awarded 50 new bitcoins, and the associated block of transactions would be added to the chain. The difficulty of each puzzle would increase as the number of miners increased, which would keep production to one block of transactions roughly every 10 minutes. In addition, the size of each block bounty would halve every 210,000 blocks – first from 50 bitcoins to 25, then from 25 to 12.5, and so on. Around the year 2140, the currency would reach its preordained limit of 21 million bitcoins."

(Benjamin Wallace, 23 November 2011, Wired Magazine)

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1990s2008anonymous system • b-money • bit gold • bitcoin • block chain • broadcast to the network • chain • clearinghouse • collective interests • collective participation • collective participation technology • corporeal strictures • credit card • cryptographer • cryptographic puzzle • cryptography • currency • cypherpunkDavid Chaumdecentralisation • digital currency • digital dollar • digital money • distribution models • double-spending • financial flowsfinancial transactionsfraudfree market economyglobal capital flowsinformation flowsinformation theoryinfrastructureJapan • ledger • libertarianism • Listservminermining • mining metaphor • P2Ppuzzle • pyramid scheme • RPOW • Satoshi Nakamoto • speculationspeculation and innovation • spending • trustvalue and benefit • virtual cash • Wired (magazine)

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
10 DECEMBER 2010

The problem of conflating symbolic and logical concepts with real world material objects

"the portrayal of WikiLeaks as a website might have been a brilliant piece of misdirection. People in general don't tend to grasp information theory, but it's sometimes particularly easy to laugh at just how little understanding some sections of the establishment appear to have:

'The Defense Department demands that WikiLeaks return immediately to the U.S. government all versions of documents obtained directly or indirectly from the Department of Defense databases or records' (Kevin Poulsen, 5 August 2010, 8:44 pm)

There are, I think, two important things about WikiLeaks. The first is the use of technology – of the internet and cryptography – to facilitate the collection of information from anonymous sources. The second is the fact that information is available in a digitised form. This latter property means that leaking a gigabit of information is hardly more difficult than leaking a single bit. If someone has the information and the motivation to leak something, it will be leaked. All that WikiLeaks does is to solicit this information actively. It's a brand, and an organisation, and a network, but it's not really a website."

(Paul Battley, 05 December 2010)

[This a problem caused by conflating symbolic and logical concepts with real world material objects. In this case the use of the metaphor of 'the web' conflates the symbolic structure of a spider's web with the structural logic of an information network. In doing so the metaphor makes concrete that which it is not i.e. it is an intangible and dynamic coded system of information flows which is in a constant state of transformation.]

Poulsen, K. (2010, 5 August, 8:44 pm). "Pentagon Demands WikiLeaks 'Return' All Classified Documents." Wired.com August 2010. from http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/08/pentagon–demands–wikileaks/.

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2010 • conflating logical concepts with real world material objects • conflating symbolic concepts with real world material objects • conspiracy • cryptographydata security • database records • defence department • defense • digital culturedigitisation • Geoff Morrell • Governmentimmaterialityimposing resemblancesinformation collectioninformation sharinginformation theoryintangibilityInternet • leak • leaking classified information • limits of languagelogical fallacy • misdirection • networkontological worldview • Paul Battley • press secretary • public disclosure • real world material objects • real world objectsreal world visual metaphorreliance on representational thinkingrepresentational thinkingrepresentational thinking expressed in analogiesrepresentational thinking expressed in metaphors • US Pentagon • website • whack-a-mole • Wikileaks

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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